Robert Wickens and Ryan Hunter-Reay topped timing and scoring this morning, with their Honda-powered beasts. Wickens, behind the wheel of the No. 6 Lucas SPM car was the only driver in the final practice to break the 1:43 mark with a 1:42.991 lap. Hunter-Reay was ever-so-slightly trailing with a 1:43.172 best time in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport ride.
Simon Pagenaud was the fastest running Chevy, and his day-glo yellow No. 22 Menards Team Penske machine was the only bowtie in the Top 5, with Alexander Rossi (No. 27 Napa Andretti Autosport Honda) and Graham Rahal (No. 15 Gehl RLL Racing Honda) rounding things out.
We talked about Robert Wickens yesterday and how cool it would be to see him earn his first IndyCar career win here at Road America. His rookie season has been incredibly impressive. Other than the Indianapolis 500, Wickens has never started worse than P10, and the only instances where he has finished worse than P9 were the only contests where he was involved in a wreck – St. Pete (where he led the majority of the race), Long Beach and Texas (he led 31 laps). And to the opinion of most, he was not at fault for any of them.
I know that someone reading this will quickly remind me and put me in my place (which I am not opposed to by the way, I love learning new things or being reminded of things that my relatively short-term memory can’t recall) but I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a rookie come in, and put down results like Wickens. A pole off the bat in the first race of the season? A podium his first time on an oval? Ever? I don’t know man, it’s almost shocking that he hasn’t won yet this year. Yet is the key word. And this weekend could absolutely be the moment where he gets to taste that sweet victory. And man, what a track to accomplish that feat.
Starting position is important at Road America, with Power winning the pole and the event in 2016 and Dixon winning from P5 last year. The polesitter last year, Helio Castroneves ended up on the podium with a P3 result. The farthest back any driver has ever won from, was P13 and that one was an outlier – Alex Tagliani in 2004. Bruno Junqueira won from P10 in 2001, but the other 7 events had winners from P7 once, P5 twice, P2 once, and pole position three times.
If history is any indicator we should be looking at the first 5 rows for the winner, with the most likely candidate within the Firestone Fast 6 this afternoon. Who will we see in there though? My guess is Wickens, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Rossi, Rahal and Dixon – in no particular order. Pole? I think it will go to Wickens, Newgarden, or Dixon.
Only one way to find out though – tune in to qualifying this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET live at any of these sources, or watch the broadcast at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.